English Premier League big-spenders Manchester City were held to a goalless draw by Aris Salonika on Tuesday in their Europa League round-of-32 encounter.
City, currently on course to be able to give this poor relation to the Champions League a miss next season if they can qualify for the latter, had the lion’s share of the game, but Salonika’s defense held on, meaning Roberto Mancini’s side must finish the job in the return leg.
New signing from VfL Wolfsburg Edin Dzeko might have struck first blood before the break, but he could not convert from Aleksandar Kolarov’s low cross, the Bosnian’s header well saved by goalkeeper Michalis Sifakis.
Mario Balotelli, on as a late substitute, then sent an overhead-kick wide in the closing stages as the Greeks’ record of never having lost in 24 European matches at their Kleanthis Vikelidis Stadium remained intact.
Mancini could not be faulted in terms of going for goals as he lined up Dzeko, as well as Carlos Tevez, David Silva and Shaun Wright-Phillips — but their collective efforts came to nothing.
Newcastle United scored their first win since the departure of striker Andy Carroll on Tuesday, winning 2-0 at Birmingham City with a goal in each half from Peter Lovenkrands and Leon Best.
Lovenkrands opened the scoring for the visitors after only two minutes, sliding in to meet a low cross from Jonas Gutierrez at the near post. Best made sure of the points after pouncing early in the second half as Birmingham crashed to their first defeat in six matches.
Newcastle’s Premier League campaign has been blown off course since the stunning ￡35 million (US$57 million) transfer of Carroll to Liverpool at the end of last month’s transfer window.
Alan Pardew’s side had picked up only two points from a possible nine since Carroll headed to Anfield, but they always had the upper hand over Birmingham on Tuesday, with Jose Enrique marauding effectively down the left flank, while midfield duo Joey Barton and Kevin Nolan dominated the middle of the park.
The win sees Newcastle move up one spot in table to 10th.